THE NEW POST-BIRTH PLAN
Ways to feel relaxed and rejuvenated after having a baby
Your due date’s around the corner and it’s almost time to meet your baby. And you’ve thought about everything – where you want to have your baby, who’s going to be your birth partner, as well as a list of names you’ve fallen in love with. But we’re guessing you haven’t given much thought to your own recovery afterwards. And not many mums-to-be do. Pregnancy and birth is a body-, mind- and wholly life-changing experience, so it’s essential to think about what will help you adjust and thrive, physically and emotionally, in the magical, overwhelming first few weeks after having your baby. Creating your own post-birth, feel-good plan will help you prioritise what you need to do to help you rest physically, rejuvenate your mind, and to concentrate on building an amazing bond with your baby.
Creating a post-birth plan is something women who follow the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda have been doing for thousands of years to help them recover after labour. If you’ve not heard of Ayurveda, then your pregnancy is the perfect time to start tapping into its wisdom. It was created 5,000 years ago as a holistic way to improve physical and emotional health, and it places huge emphasis on the importance of caring for women before, during and after pregnancy.
“In Ayurveda, it’s believed that a new mum should eat wholesome foods, have plenty of time for rest, and be nurtured and cared for by her partner, family and friends – a practice called ‘mothering the mother’ – particularly in the first 42 days after having a baby,” explains Ayurvedic consultant Seema Datta. Traditionally in India, a new mum would spend these 42 days after birth at home, with family and friends taking on the cooking, cleaning
and caring for other children. “She would be given nutritious, warming food, herbal drinks and massage to help restore her strength, and would be encouraged to devote her time to resting and bonding with her baby,” says Seema. Sound good? We think so! And while dedicating a full six weeks to your recovery might not always be possible, there are lots of ways you can incorporate Ayurveda into those early weeks to reap the benefits. As well as giving you time to build up your strength, following Ayurvedic principles can help you bond with your new baby, ease breastfeeding, improve your digestion, and support your mental health and wellbeing.
EAT WARMING FOODS
“Ayurveda believes that digestion is the root of all health and that, after birth, new mums need food that is easy to digest, with spices to improve digestion,” says Seema. “This can aid uncomfortable post-birth gas, constipation and bloating, as well as providing lots of nutrition and energy to help produce good quality breastmilk. A postnatal diet should be a little like the foods you would choose to wean a baby on: You need to replenish your body with soft, warm, nutrient-rich foods that are easy to digest, such as vegetables, wholegrains and good fats.” Traditionally in the first few days after birth, new mums would have porridge and milk laced with warming saffron and cardamom for breakfast, and vegetable dhal or kedgeree made with lentils, rice and spices for lunch and dinner. “But a day of eating soup or broth is just as beneficial, and far less time-consuming,” says Seema. “Try a soup made from a non-fibrous vegetable such as butternut squash, enriched with black pepper and ginger to aid digestion.”
SIP WARMING DRINKS
“As well as supporting digestion, herbs and spices are used in Ayurveda to help your body produce good-quality breastmilk, with fresh saffron, fennel, and ginger added to broths and hot teas,” says Seema. “Not only does this help you stay hydrated, but sipping warm drinks throughout the day for the first six weeks is thought to create warmth in your body, which aids recovery and healing.”
CREATE A NEW MUM MANTRA
In Ayurveda, it’s just as important to rest and quiet your mind after you’ve had a baby, as it is to rest your body. But it’s easier said than done. “Talking about any worries with your partner or a friend can help remove them from your body,” says Seema. “And mantras are a great way to help you think more positively. If you have a specific worry or doubt, create a mantra that responds to that thought, such as ‘I am good enough’. Write it down on a few Post-it notes and place them around your home and, whenever you see one, say it out loud or in your head.”
GIVE YOURSELF A MASSAGE
Warm oil massages are practised in Ayurveda and are believed to help with regulating body temperature, aid tissue rebuilding and postbirth bleeding, and support the removal of waste from the body after birth. Massage is also a relaxing way to relieve tired and aching muscles and quiet your
mind. ‘“Traditionally a doula
or Ayurvedic practitioner would give a new mum regular massages in the weeks after birth,” says Seema. “But gentle self-massage is just as effective, especially focusing on the pelvic and stomach area.” To give it a try, add a couple of drops of cold-pressed organic sesame oil to your fingertips then, starting at your right hip bone, gently draw small circles on your skin, across your stomach and pelvic area, until you reach your left hip bone.
GET WRAPPED UP
“New mums are encouraged to keep warm, relaxed and rested following birth, and wrap their bellies with a long piece of soft fabric, such as muslin, to help support their lower back, help organs move back into place, and heal tummy muscles that have separated in pregnancy,” says Seema. You can recreate the feeling by wearing soft, supportive clothes and transforming your bedroom into a peaceful sanctuary, with soft cotton bedding, and cushions that will be gentle against your skin and keep your body temperature comfortable.
All this will help you to feel good, which will ensure that you’re able to look after your gorgeous little newborn, and enjoy these magical first few weeks.